We’re writing to faculty members with information for Principal Investigators (PI) about our efforts to stop the administration from violating their contractual obligation to centrally fund raises for grant-funded faculty, postdocs, and graduate workers. If you are a PI, please read on—and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
As we wrote last week, we met recently with Chief Financial Officer J. Michael Gower and other Rutgers officials to find out how grant and startup accounts would be reimbursed if they were charged for unbudgeted salary increases (and a proportionally increased fringe rate) won in our new contract.
In that meeting, Gower affirmed the University’s commitment to the terms of our contract, which bars grant funds from being used to pay for raises beyond increases already budgeted for—typically a 3 percent increase. Gower promised further communications to clarify how PIs, departments, and schools should document the unbudgeted costs of negotiated increases, and he promised to work with chancellors to make sure these costs are covered by the University.
Since the increases were paid using existing procedures that charge your accounts, Gower said the administration will have to reverse the process and restore the amounts charged. In the meantime, he committed to creating a process to facilitate the day-to-day work of your research to continue, including purchasing supplies and equipment and charging summer pay onto grants.
According to the June memo from Gower and Senior Vice President for Research Michael Zwick, salary increases beyond what was already budgeted for “must be covered by the department. If the department cannot cover the remaining funds, then departments should request assistance from the school, and schools may, in turn, request support from the Chancellor as needed.” With no centrally planned process in place yet, it appears the following steps will be necessary to get grant and startup funds restored:
- PIs should identify the relevant salaries on their grants (grads, postdocs, and NTT and TT faculty) and determine the difference of both salaries and associated fringe between the approved budgeted amounts and the actual amounts after salary increases.
- Requests for reimbursement of these funds should follow the normal flow: PI requests to department chair or institute/center director, chair to dean, dean/institute director/center director to chancellor.
- If the chancellor doesn’t have available or appropriately budgeted funds, they should contact Gower’s office to request that the University cover the costs.
Our union staff has developed a spreadsheet to help PIs with the first step in this process. It has data on pre- and post-contract salaries and associated fringe for graduate assistants, postdocs, and full-time faculty, plus the difference (or “delta”) between the two, which you will need to know to request your research funds be restored. The data shown is for the minimum salary for each rank and classification; the numbers will be proportionally higher for anyone making more than these minima.
It is highly inefficient to ask the roughly 1,600 PIs at Rutgers, overseeing around 4,200 grants, to gather all this information individually. In addition, many people, including our hard-working staff colleagues, are rightfully taking much-needed time off with their families right now, and departments are prioritizing preparation for the fall semester. A simpler calculation of overall budgets and credits back to our accounts while detailed checks are done would be more efficient for our research needs. Likewise, a simple assumption that department budgets have not accounted for grant-funded positions—which is likely in the vast majority of cases—would simplify and speed resolution of the issue.
Many of you have already shared details about how your grants have been charged for the raises. If you haven’t yet, please click here and fill out the form.
If you are experiencing difficulty ordering supplies and equipment or hiring new researchers or staff because the unbudgeted increases are showing as a charge on your account, you should write to SVP Zwick at email@example.com, so his office can clear your account for purchases or hires. We have an agreement with the administration that research will not be disrupted because the administration has not implemented a process to restore grant funds and pay for unbudgeted salary increases.
We will continue to communicate with you about how to make sure your grants aren’t raided to pay for unbudgeted salary increases, in violation of our contract. If we don’t see tangible progress on this issue, we will call on you to take further action to properly implement the contract and support your research.
Rutgers AAUP-AFT and AAUP-BHSNJ